CO SBAF Pyrate Micro Meet (Feb. 15th, 2020)

Discussion in 'The Meeting Place' started by MisterRogers, Feb 16, 2020.

  1. MisterRogers

    MisterRogers Ethernet Nervosa

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    Well, another micro-meet in the books. A few of our usual mates weren't able to attend, but @jexby, @Hands, @Elnrik, @Effusion & @bixby brought a bunch of gear and plenty of beer. It's been ~2 years since our last micro-meet, so it was great to gather, listen and catch up.

    I'll post a few photos I snapped, and lead in with just a partial list of the gear that the crew could probably be coaxed into commenting on - along with whatever else they'd like to share.

    Bottom line: Great music, good food, beer and friendship!

    Partial list of gear available for listening:
    • ZDS (most recent).
    • Af with feedback mod.
    • S7 (C-Core, modded).
    • 2 x 3F's, with with Nickel IPT's, the other with Amorphous.
    • 2 x SW51+, both with Mullards.
    • 1 x PI2AES w. I2S out, custom linear supply.
    • 2 x Ambre's.
    • @Effusion's kit amp that always pleases, and magically has great synergy with most headphones.
    • EtherREGEN (a few mates spent some time A/B testing (non-calibrated)).
    • 2 x Morpheus, 1 using I2S input, the other USB I think?
    • Pavane L1, I2S & Coaxial.
    • Pretty much every headphone ZMF makes.
    • Empyrean.
    • @Hands - please weigh in on your assortment of headphones.
    • Custom FrankenDAC that @Hands has been working on. Pissed me off, and delighted me. I'll explain later.
    • What else guys?

    Anyway - I'll let the crew weigh in.
     

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    Last edited: Feb 16, 2020
  2. MisterRogers

    MisterRogers Ethernet Nervosa

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  3. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    notice the absence of @zerodeefex who continues to be so busy IRL that he treats us like lepers IRL. ;)
     
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  4. Elnrik

    Elnrik Super Friendly

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    First, thank you @MisterRogers for hosting the meet! It was really fun. Always glad to see you fellas.

    I will chime in with a few impressions later, I'm busy as heck at the moment.

    :D
     
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  5. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    Very impressed with Pi2aes feeding pavane and Ambre feeding Morpheus. Morpheus in both setups sounded great. Ah, ZMF Auteurs, my Goldilocks choice of cans that do just about everything right. And is it true 4 of you guys own these?

    Also enjoyed the ZMF Aeolus. Terrific upgrades to my Senn 600s.

    Shortest Way and Asgard 3 were nice value amps and great sound from the Elekit that just matches so nicely with my Senn 600s. My Musical Fidelity amp did not get dusted but I did have a preference for the SW51. Jexby's Afcianado and Auteur combo was very good, airy, detailed, slammin, spacious and sweet.

    Enjoyed the chance to hear a bunch of Hands headphones including the 600 JARs and the Drop/ Mr. Speakers closed back variant that he worked on.

    Thanks to MisterRogers for the great setup and hospitality. Awesome!
     
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  6. MisterRogers

    MisterRogers Ethernet Nervosa

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    So in comparing Pavane (L1) vs. Morpheus (identical chains apart from DAC's, roughly but not accurately leveled, switching between the two), I can share the following:
    • Technically and sonically, they're siblings. You can clearly tell the tonality, speed, spatial positioning, etc. are so. damn. close. Which makes sense, given their lineage.
    • Slightly lower noise floor with Morpheus.
    • Slightly more solidity to the tone with Morpheus.
    • Bass / mid-bass seemed slightly tighter with Morpheus.
    • Slightly more of a 'raw' presentation with Pavane.
    My takeaways: both Pavane and Morpheus are excellent DAC's. WIth a much more affordable price, and a lossless volume control, Morph is a no-brainer.
     
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  7. MisterRogers

    MisterRogers Ethernet Nervosa

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    After comparing Morpheus and Pavane, @Hands replaced Morpheus with a custom DAC he's been working on (@Hands, don't remember the chip, specifics). Starting to A/B test, I was a bit startled that his DAC sounded so. much. like. Pavane. The only deltas I could hear, were a slightly accentuated bass (a bit looser), and maybe a touch less air. Otherwise, I was fairly blown away that his ~$400 FrankenDAC was somehow nearly identical to Pavane.

    Well done sir!
     
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  8. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    yah that @Hands boy is a hardware hacker at heart! i provided similar feedback on that blue FrankenDAC with a hacked Bifrost DAC he brought also- very high marks for a work in progress.
     
  9. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    ditto on the blue meanie dac feeding the super 7
     
  10. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

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    Too much listening. Not enough eating and shit talking.
     
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  11. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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  12. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    it’s a given that the Super 7 amp makes many DACs sounds good.
     
  13. Effusion

    Effusion Friend

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    Great micro meet everyone, had a blast checking out all the new, and old, gear, plus chatting with everyone! Seemed like it had been forever since we last got together!

    Well, of course, I had to check my pocketbook as soon as I got home, always just too much great stuff from you guys!
    • ZMFs are now in my near future and on the short-list, leaning towards the Auteurs as the best overall, but with Zach, you never know what he has coming down the pipe.
    • Also really enjoyed the PI2AES, had never properly heard one before, in addition to the excellent Morpheus and Pavane, as always.
    • Also was able to spend some quality time with the Empyreans, which I've always really liked. While many find them to be too dark or chopping the highs too much, I find them quite pleasant and there are ways to extend the highs, tubes and such, with my Elekit amp, for which it seemed to be an excellent pairing. However, due to the heavy price tag, I'm still not too sure if they are worth the money when there are so many great sounding ZMF options. Maybe used...
    • Super 7 was sounding really great out of @Hands setup, so smooth and velvety!
    Almost everything I heard sounded just amazing, just with different flavors and spices to each. Also was able to get some good ideas with my recent mods to both my 770s and 650s. Actually ended-up removing a bunch of material from my 650s as soon as I got home. Thinking about trying to use a very small leather hole punch to put holes into the Dekoni Choice Suede pads I have for the 650s. Inside only first, then maybe the contact area on the ends. Not too sure, but honestly, something has to be done with them in their current state. Too much bass, too thick, too constricted, too much of a closed channel of air I'm thinking, need to open them up. So, either I can get the Choice Suede pads usable somehow or I'm back to stock OEM pads for the time being I'm thinking.

    I know @MisterRogers was once again interested in my little Elekit TU-8200DX amp, so I did some digging today on the options for him as well as others that may be interested. I really should contact Victor directly to sort out some of the early confusion, but it appears that they wanted to offer an upgrade for 8200, however Mr. Fujita is now against it. Also, the Lundahls they were trying to use in the 8200 appear not to fit correctly in that case still, so Victor is telling folks to look at the new 8800 as an option, as the newer 8200R still uses the old case. Below are some links/info...
    Kind of torn on what to do here though, really want those Lundahls, also really like the improvements of the "R" version... jeez, I might try to get an "R" version in a case that will hold the Lundahls and go that route. Would have to find a blank case that would work and machine it though I'm thinking. Or wait to more impressions of the 8800 come out, as Mr. Fujita really believes in this new amp and it might give me some more headroom when pairing with eventual single drivers, etc. The 8800 looks really nice, just not sure yet, and I have so many 12au7s already for my 8200... oh jeez, who knows!

    Thanks again to @MisterRogers for hosting and to everyone who was able to attend and bring all their excellent gear!
     
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  14. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I am tentatively calling my FrankenDAC the BBC-69, obviously for "Big Blue Converter" and the model number being picked entirely at random. You can see it next to the Super 7 in one of @MisterRogers's pics.

    It's an AD1862-based non-oversampling DAC. I got some of the pricier power supply/regulator boards and AD1862 board from DIYINHK. I picked up some power transformers and an SPDIF input board from eBay, then tossed it all in an ugly case. While I've been researching custom I/V output stages, or even just tweaking the low pass output filter, I am so far running it "as is" with my choice of ADA4625-2 opamps at the output. Running cost so far is under $400.

    At home, I had no other NOS DACs to put it up against, so all I could really ascertain was that it sounded decent enough.

    Toward the end of the meet, I hooked up an A/B switcher to try it out directly against the Pavane L1. I used a single digital source and matching input/output cables to rule out variables there.

    We were really only listening for the most noticeable aspects, like tone, timbre, forward or relaxed presentation, macro detail, etc. In those regards, the two DACs were startlingly similar.

    The BBC-69 was a hair bassier. At times, I felt it's low end was better defined in busy passages, and other times less so than the Pavane. It was maybe the tiniest bit more forward than the Pavane. Low single-digit percentage differences.

    I was admittedly surprised to hear them sound so, so similar in an A/B test. I remember thinking, "Oh, shit...Did I just slap together Pavane-like performance for a few hundred bucks?" and felt as if I'd discovered a (very ugly) mythical creature.

    That said...The Pavane's SE output, while really quite good, does rely on output transformers. It will naturally excel using balanced outputs. Plus, the A/B switcher may have subtly influenced the sound, the amp we were using (SW51+) isn't best suited to pick out traits like staging, and we didn't have the time to really dig in for tiny differences like one can do on their free time.

    And how about Pavane L1 vs Morpheus?

    Same test conditions, more or less. Curiously, I noticed the Morpheus does not seem to use output transformers for SE out. This could be a good or bad thing, depending on the output stage design. I think OPTs can sound excellent, sometimes better than other balanced-to-SE conversion methods. But it's not guaranteed.

    I felt the Pavane to be more lively sounding overall. Bigger bass, a brighter top end, and a good step or two more forward. The Pavane had a more "bold" sound. The Morpheus sounded a tiny bit more restrained in comparison, a bit more laid back. I think you could argue the Morpheus was ever so slightly more neutral and more spacious sounding.

    In this regard, I think calling one better than the other would be entirely down to user preference. It could even be something as simple as the Pavane's OPTs adding some euphonic coloration. (If measuring SE vs XLR outs on Pavane, the SE outs do exhibit additional 2nd order distortion across the board.)

    Had we had time, I'd liked to have tested both on a fully balanced setup, i.e. over the 3F. I think the differences would have narrowed between the two DACs.

    Still, it took a few minutes, and several different tracks, before I could hear much of a difference at all. They didn't sound as similar as the Pavane and BBC-69 did compared to each other, but still very, very close. The Pavane and Morpheus share the same DNA in the end.

    If you expand the scope of things, the Morpheus has newer tech, is relatively affordable compared to the high-end Metrum stuff (though still not cheap!), is surprisingly small and compact, and has pre-amp functionality built in. So, it has those elements going for it coupled with that high-end, Metrum-like sound.
     
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  15. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    Sounds like a great time and yielded fantastic data points for the rest of us on the sidelines. Thanks for sharing gents!
     
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  16. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    the Swans have been such an important musical lifeline over the years for me, Michael Gira continues to lead with amazing constructs, players and long structured episodes of sound.
    this is why I chose that shirt, and a band which invariably ends up being chosen on a long evening of listening in the dark.....
     
  17. sacredgates

    sacredgates Audio-Technica's high priest

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    Thanks for sharing meet impressions and insights!

    Was there a chance at the meet to check out single ended vs balanced out with the Morpheus Dac?
    Or have any of the owners by chance made some comparison by now?
     
  18. MisterRogers

    MisterRogers Ethernet Nervosa

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    Not specifically at the meet, but I've used SE & BAL equally (though not with the same amp) since before Christmas, and I've noticed no discernible difference between the two. As @Hands notes, Morpheus doesn't use transformers for BAL->SE conversion anymore (not sure of the approach used) - but it seems to perform very well. Maybe @jexby can chime in here too.
     
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  19. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

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    Anyone do ZDS + Auteur? Curious CO crew take on that pairing.

    Also hearing from @Hands that @jexby didn't hate the MD + Dan Ether (is it the 1 or 2?) CX .
     
  20. MisterRogers

    MisterRogers Ethernet Nervosa

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    I didn't have any time with ZDS + Auteur at the meet, but I'm listening to that pairing right now. To my ears, they pair very, vary well (newer ZDS, brown base, high impedance out). Guys?
     
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